Poole makes another splash

Poole makes another splash

Big plays are getting to be a habit for one Tennessee running back ... a very encouraging habit.

Nine days after bolting 67 yards for a touchdown in the Vols' first spring scrimmage, junior Tauren Poole bolted 65 yards to paydirt Saturday as the Big Orange held its second scrimmage of the spring.

Poole's totals for the two scrimmages were similar, as well. After rushing 9 times for 94 yards in Scrimmage No. 1, he rushed 11 times for 87 yards in Scrimmage No. 2.

The 5-11, 205-pounder from Toccoa, Ga., appears to be running away from the competition at running back. Sophomore David Oku managed 33 yards on 10 carries Saturday, while redshirt freshman Toney Williams chipped in 11 yards on 12 attempts.

Stuck behind senior Montario Hardesty last fall, Poole carried just 10 times in 13 games. He averaged a team-high 8.5 yards per carry, however, and showed flashes of brilliance in his limited opportunities. Naturally, he's excited to be getting a legitimate shot at the first-team job this spring.

"I feel like I've got to fill in that void for Montario because he was a great back," Poole said. "I told him that I would be That Guy for him."

So, what will it take to be That Guy?

"To be That Guy," Poole said, "I just have to continue to grow to be a good back in this league."

Most observers figure Tennessee's attack will be weak in 2010, given the heavy losses from 2009 - a 1,300-yard rusher (Hardesty), a 2,800-yard passer (Jonathan Crompton) and all five offensive line starters. Poole begs to differ. He believes the attack is making steady progress.

"It's all about development," he said following the scrimmage. "We're getting better as a team. As you could see today, a lot of running backs got some big runs."

Poole said the Vols' ground attack was especially productive.

"I think the biggest thing was that we ran the football well," he said. "The offensive line blocked well to allow the quarterbacks to get the ball out and allow the receivers to make plays."

Even with five new faces in the first-team offensive line, Poole says the run blocking has been pretty good this spring.

"The running game is sometimes the easiest thing to do," he said. "With passing, it takes time. Quarterbacks need time back there. We've got a long way to go in the running game and the passing game."

One high school coach who observed the scrimmage said the Vols must have "laid the ball on the ground" six times on fumbled exchanges between centers and quarterbacks. Poole conceded that Tennessee needs to improve in that area.

"I just think we've got to continue working - get this comfort level with each other," he said. "We've got to keep working each day after practice, and I think we'll get better."

Asked if defensive tackle-turned-center Victor Thomas has shown improvement, Poole replied: "He has. He's making the transition well."

One reason Tennessee's offense is coming along slowly this spring is the fact it is learning a new scheme with new terminology. Another reason is that it faces a stern test in practice each day against a Vol defense that is incredibly diverse.

"We've got to continue to get better on communication," Poole said, "because the defense is stemming and doing all of this crap. But if we continue to communicate, we'll be a good offense."

Asked about the many "looks" the UT defense is showing in practice, Poole shook his head.

"Oh, it's unbelievable, man," he said. "I think that's good for us as an offense. We need to see that because we're going to see that (from opponents) in the fall a lot. It helps us a lot to learn and develop."

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney took a UT attack that struggled mightily last September and made steady improvement with it in October and November. Poole has complete confidence that the coordinator will work similar magic with the 2010 offense.

"Coach Chaney is a genius," Poole said. "He teaches us so much stuff. When you buy into it, it'll be incredible to see how much you learn."

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